The Intelligence Community vs. Trump?

Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist gives a good history of this conflict from the election until this week. At the beginning, she frames it as the intelligence community taking on Trump, but later on she specifies that she is talking about political appointees within that community. The value of the article is its thoroughness (for an article, mind you), so it isn't worth much to excerpt it here.

In my earlier post, Trump Does Counter-Intelligence against the IC?, I asked a couple of questions that trouble me, and for which I have no answers.

What if we find out the IC in general is partisan? How could a problem like that be solved? These are the folks who have permission to hide information from us and lie to us for our own good, whose job is ideally proper management of information, but who could easily manipulate it for their own purposes, all protected from scrutiny by law.
Hemingway narrows the conflict to Obama's political appointees in those agencies, but I'm not sure that's the case, and what if it isn't? Intelligence services are essential, and they do very valuable work. But the people in them go through the same schools and programs our neo-Marxian radicals do, and it is likely that many of them identify with the same socio-cultural elite Trump just defeated.


Anonymous said...

The first step is to get rid of the political appointees. After that, we see what happens.

This may not be a hugely satisfying catharsis, but it may be both necessary and sufficient.

By the way, there have been some unsubtle threats of assassination over the last few days.

CNN is particularly offensive, so much so I'll cite an alternative source that quotes them heavily.

CNBC is similar

with the expected results involving the weak-minded

and the credibility-challenged CIA head Brennan is now back-peddling on his RUSSIA story.

while Wikileaks keeps leaking, this time about rewards to the intelligence operatives


Grim said...

The CIA, at least, has struggled with this problem throughout its history. It was originally very much an elite service. At points it has tried to grapple with that, and bring in people educated in state schools or from working class backgrounds. This is tremendously important insofar as intelligence is to a large degree about imagination, and one's upbringing deeply influences what is imaginable.

It also has a problem similar to the State Department's problem, which is that diplomatic postings (commonly used for espionage workers as well as for diplomats) are pretty comfortable compared to muddy boots work. Indeed, for clandestine service officers, they offer the comfort of diplomatic immunity -- an obviously desirable comfort! State at one point wanted to push more people out into austere environments in war zones including Iraq and Afghanistan, to work on embedded provincial reconstruction teams. They ended up using mostly contractors, because their people wouldn't go. The Agency was trying very hard after 9/11 to shift as many clandestine officers to Non-Official Cover roles, but that too is both uncomfortable and dangerous. It's harder to get people to agree to the shift.

(Especially thanks to the OPM hack!)

I wonder if the entire clandestine service doesn't need to be replaced, rebuilt from the ground up with something new. Excellent performers from the old service could be brought in, but the superstructure could be torn down and a new one imposed that didn't have these assumptions built into it.

Of course, that'd be a lot harder to do now that they've had all these leaks about Russia. Donald Trump tearing down (or even seriously reforming) the CIA will look like Russia destroying America's capacity for self-defense to many people. The stories in the press are a kind of self-defense by the bureaucracy, for the bureaucracy.

E Hines said...

I wonder if the entire clandestine service doesn't need to be replaced.... Excellent performers from the old service could be brought in....

I'd be for that rather than wholesale housecleaning and remodeling/rebuilding, but both would be fraught with the same peril: discriminating between the truly excellent performers and those who look like it because they're truly excellent political animals.

Still, the risk from leaving things alone are becoming even greater, if they've not crossed that threshold already.

Eric Hines

james said...

What was the name of that Russian who figured out how to tell US spies from regular embassy folks with a few simple tests like "Does this person come and go freely or does he have to get permissions?" CIA's folks were even more comfortable than State's.

Texan99 said...

I'm not sure we'll ever figure out how to remove political machinations from the intelligence service, something that no nation to my knowledge has ever accomplished. I will say that, to the extent this dust-up is being used to reflect poorly on Trump's "bad judgment" in getting crosswise with those intelligence gurus, who as everyone knows "will certainly find six ways from Sunday to mess with you if you mess with them so what does that idiot think he's doing?", the argument pretty much undermines itself. What Trump is criticizing them for primarily is their allowing political considerations to overshadow their professional judgment. Whether their assessment of this particular intelligence controversy is accurate or not, everything they're doing in response to his criticism only confirms the view held by Trump and the American public that the intelligence gurus are completely willing to let political considerations overshadow their professional judgment.